Joe Anderson letter to David Cameron: Liverpool council pulls out of the Big Society

By David Bartlett on Feb 3, 11 01:13 PM in

Liverpool council has today sensationally pulled out of Prime Minister's Big Society project in the city.

In the summer the city was selected as one of four so-called vanguard areas. It was the biggest city taking part and only Labour controlled area involved in the project.

In a two page letter council leader Joe Anderson tells David Cameron that the government's cuts have seriously undermined the ability of community organisations to improve the quality of life of residents.

Here is the letter:

Liverpool City Council has a long history of working with its local communities. Our voluntary and community sector is well established and extremely successful. They have a passion and vision for the city and for the people they serve.

You will recall that you announced Liverpool as one of four 'Big Society' vanguard areas last summer with Phil Redmond leading the initiative.

Later in the year, Liverpool City Council was asked to assist in this initiative around some key projects, including running a 'parallel vanguard programme'. We took up this challenge wholeheartedly and have invested significant resources to deliver this substantial programme of activity.

When we agreed to become a Vanguard, your government promised to work with us to remove some of the problems and blockages that were preventing us from successfully delivering our Big Society programme. I have to say, the government has failed to deliver a single change that we have requested, which has severely hampered many parts of our programme.

Liverpool has been doing the "Big Society" for many years. We call it "working with our communities" and it is something we are very much committed to. We pride ourselves on our excellent working relationships with our community and voluntary sectors, and indeed have done our upmost to support these sectors - as they are crucial to the success of our city.

These organisations - run by thousands of dedicated and passionate people right across the city - play a vital role in helping build vibrant and cohesive communities. They provide hundreds of services essential to a thriving society.

But their ability to help us improve the quality of life for Liverpool residents has been seriously undermined by two government decisions. Firstly, the loss of over £100million of Area Based Grants to Liverpool has put many organisations very survival at risk. These funds, aimed at tackling deprivation, were widely utilised by the voluntary sector. Secondly, Liverpool's extremely poor local government settlement means a huge £141million reduction in council spending over the next two years. This level of cuts will significantly impact on council services, including the funding of many of our voluntary and community groups.

How can the City Council support the Big Society and its aim to help communities do more for themselves when we will have to cut the lifeline to hundreds of these vital and worthwhile groups?

I have therefore come to the conclusion that Liverpool City Council can no longer support the "Big Society" initiative, as a direct consequence of your funding decisions.

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David Bartlett

David Bartlett

City editor of the Post and Echo covering politics, regeneration, and urban affairs.
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